Resurrection Myths and Resurrection Reality

John ArmstrongChrist/Christology

Since the first century people have developed various explanations (myths) to explain away the historical credibility of the empty tomb on that first Easter morning. These theories, or myths, include:

1. The Swoon Theory

Jesus didn’t really die, but only swooned and then recovered in the cool tomb.

2. The No Burial Theory

Jesus wasn’t really buried but placed in a common grave and his body was later recovered.

3. The Hallucination Theory

Scores, if not hundreds, of people thought they saw him in his resurrected state but they all hallucinated.

4. The Telepathy Theory

People had mental images of the Christ but he did not really arise.

5. The Seance Theory

People experienced an incorporeal and ephemeral appearance but not a bodily resurrection.

6. The Mistaken Identity Theory

Someone besides Jesus appeared impersonating him.

But none of these can explain how cowards became heroes, or how the early church could prosper and grow and the ancient world be eventually turned upside down by the story of a resurrected messiah.

What really happened to Jesus’ body?

The best answer non-Christians have offered is the same one offered by the Jewish authorities in the first century. It is recorded for us in Matthew 28:11-15. We can call it "The Theft Theory." Jesus’ body was stolen and thus the resurrection was really a hoax.

In the end this theory is itself plainly a myth since the true Jewish leaders among the Sanhedrin could have produced a body and proven the hoax had they desired to prove their point. Further, the basic idea itself is severely flawed because these men (and women) who would have stolen Jesus’ body were in no state of mind to pull this off. They were filled with fear, scattered quite widely and completely doubtful. And how improbable it would have been for all the Roman guards to have slept through an event of such major proportions. And their story, cooked up on the basis of politics and a bride, is rooted in the claim that they slept through all these events.

No, He is risen! He is risen indeed. Our faith is grounded in the testimony not only of the witnesses but in the sure experience of how we expect normal people to respond if Jesus had really risen. It not only takes faith not to believe the biblical account it takes a considerable bias against all common sense and human behavior as we know it.

This is the triumphant day of the Church. We must and will always come back here to root everything we preach and believe in the real stuff of human history.